Bird of the Week – Week 140 – Montiero’s hornbill

The Montiero’s hornbill is a near-endemic to Namibia and its range is limited to central and north-west Namibia, spilling outside the southern African region only into the southern part of Angola. It is the largest of the seven Tockus hornbills in the region, with a length of approximately 54 cm; the males being slightly larger than the females and having a larger bill.

Montiero's hornbill

The sexes are alike in plumage colouration, with dark grey head, neck and upper breast; brown back and tail; wing coverts spotted with white; and white belly and vent. The large curved bill is red; eyes are brown; legs are black.

Although the Montiero’s hornbills track the rain within their range, they occupy a drier habitat than any of the other hornbills. Their preferred habitat is the usually dry waterways through the stony escarpment and the flatter areas of central Namibia. Their call, sometimes taking the form of a duet, consists of a series of deep clucking sounds.

Montiero's hornbill

Montiero’s hornbills feed mainly 0n insects and other invertebrates, chameleons, lizards, bird’s eggs and fledglings. They also eat fruit, seeds and flowers, and use their large bills to dig for roots and tubers.

Montiero's hornbill

Montiero’s hornbills are monogamous and as with most other hornbills, the female seals herself into a cavity in a tree or rock face when breeding, remaining in this chamber until the young birds are ready to leave. The male is kept busy ferrying food to the nest throughout this time. The female lays a clutch of between two and eight white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 25 days.

Montiero's hornbill

The scientific binomial for the Montiero’s hornbill is Tockus monteiri; Tockus being a Latin-derived imitation of the call of the Southern yellow-billed hornbill; and monteiri after Joachim Monteiro who collected specimens of birds in Angola in the 1860’s and 1870’s. So it is just a name, really, and reveals nothing about the bird itself.

Montiero's hornbill

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